Thursday, January 14, 2016

Like a Little Child

Primary is the name for the children's organization in our church. If you are asked to serve in Primary, you are in charge of teaching the children, ages 3-11 in a type of sunday school setting.

I've never had a calling in Primary, and so far I've been relieved by that fact. The most important part of our religion is lived out day-to-day, but I've always enjoyed participating with other adults on Sundays. It strengthens my faith to participate in the adult lessons, I love joining with my sisters in Relief Society, and Ben and I have really enjoyed going to the Gospel Principles class the last couple of years.

To be honest, I was not looking forward to my primary calling. I was worried about keeping kids quiet and making them behave (something I've never been very good at), and I worried about coming up with fun and creative lessons to keep the kids engaged. On top of that, I had always thought that the simplicity of the doctrine taught in primary would make church less spiritually fulfilling for me.

Not long after I got called, I went to a training that totally changed my perspective on Primary, and mothering for that matter. This video made all the difference.

(Also watch here:

All of my fears and concerns started to fade away. I saw Primary for what is really is: the birthplace of a person's testimony. It is now so much more exciting to me. Primary, in my previous opinion, was more babysitting than spiritually uplifting. And unfortunately a lot of people see Primary this way, or boast of preparing a lesson in Sacrament meeting, as if it is no big deal. You know this stuff already, so why do you need much preparation?

But how can we not prepare when we have the chance to give someone a knowledge that will change the whole trajectory of their life?

It's caused me to reflect back on my own Primary experience. I don't remember most of it, but I'll have flashes of bits and pieces. My mom being the music leader, and how much I loved that as a little kid. I'll remember a song that we learned, or snippets of a specific lesson, and how it made my heart burn. I remember how black-and-white everything was, and how less-complicated belief was. I can remember now how easy it was to acknowledge the feelings in my heart. We really don't give children enough credit.

Primary (and young motherhood, for that matter) is so much more than being a piece of someone's memory. Imagine you are a missionary teaching a lesson to an investigator who is totally prepared to hear your message. That's exactly what Primary is. Not only are children curious about what you have to say (for many of them, this is one of the first times they've heard about this topic), but they are little children, the little children that Christ asks us to be like. They are humble and faithful. Innocent, and full of hope. They are honest with the feelings of their heart and can recognize when they hear truth. Aside from the part that they are so easily distracted ;), these are exactly the kind of people you are hoping for and are praying will hear the message of the Gospel.

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 18:3-4

As I prepare once a month to teach the children in Primary, I remind myself of a lesson I've learned before: they are royalty. These children deserve nothing less than the best from myself. But preparation means something different than what I had assumed. The spirit prompts me to spend less time trying to find the most exciting games or really involved handouts or decorations. Simplicity is how the Lord has asked me, specifically, to fulfill this calling. I find that if my ideas get too complicated, the idea too crafty, the analogy too far-fetched, I am cautioned to scale back. But neither am I prodded to simply "wing it" or hope the kids can learn a few facts. Instead he gently prods me: How can you make this is place where they can feel the spirit? What can best teach them about the love of God? What tools can you give them to prepare for the challenges that will inevitably come? Although it can feel challenging at times answering these questions for a bunch of rowdy 3-11-year-olds, I am never without inspiration. That's how I know God loves his children.

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